Tag Archives: WW2


Renshaw, William, RAF

One of the last families we visited before we left England in 2018, was the family of Dennis Tearle and Betty nee Renshaw. We told them about our stop-over in Singapore, and Betty asked us if we could find out what happened to her beloved younger brother, William Renshaw. All she knew of the circumstances of his death was that he was killed when the Japanese invaded the island. Dennis suggested there was a large Commonwealth War Graves Commission site somewhere in Singapore. We promised we’d have a look, and as is usual with these things, what we found far exceeded what we had expected to see. A few weeks after we landed in New Zealand, I arranged all the photos that best illustrated our experience at the Kranji CWGC, then wrote an accompanying text for each photo. The result is below – as much as possible, word for word. I wrapped the printed photos and the story we had to tell in a large envelope, and sent the whole parcel to Dennis and Betty.

26 July 2018

Dear Dennis and Betty

While we were in Singapore, on the return journey to New Zealand, we took the bus to Kranji in the north of Singapore and, after a few miss-steps we found the CWGC Kranji War Memorial. There are an incredible number of names on the various plaques; these commemorate all those who died, but whose bodies were never found. There were huge plaques for the Royal Indian regiments, with literally thousands of names.

We arrived at the same time as a group of early high school students turned up, with flags and tokens, to explore the memorial and to commemorate the memory of those who had been killed. Near the end of their time, there was a moving little ceremony of remembrance, and a particularly beautiful rendition of The Last Post by a single bugler.

I will explain each of the numbered prints below, in order of their appearance.

State Cemetery. The cemetery is a co-operation with the CWGC, but it is on Singapore land.
Cemetery Gate. There is a long walk of about 200m from the road to the gate, and a small parking area between the gate and the entrance to the cemetery. We could see the children alighting from the bus and walking to the memorial. We did not interact with them, because we felt it would be a distraction. One of their teachers told me they all came from the same school, but they individually came from many countries. Some of the children were carrying the flag of their parent country.
These are the main gates to the memorial.
Note to visitors to the memorial and its significance to Singaporean history.
Close-up of the writing on the memorial gate.
There is a visitors book, and Elaine has signed for all of us.
It took a while to find the book that had William’s name, but it led us directly to Panel 430, where he and his comrades were memorialised. Here is his name, for Betty’s sake.
Here is the close-up of William’s name on the Kranji Memorial.
The children are lined up ready for their ceremony and you can see the CWGC Great Cross, and the spire of the memorial itself. It is truly a magnificent sight.
If I remember correctly, there were more than thirty books in the brass cabinet that contains these things – I have never seen so many in one place.
Here is the note in the Book of Remembrance with a very short version of William’s life.
Here is a stepped-away view of the memorial. It looks like a huge bomber about to take off. You can see the headstones in the cemetery, but they were very few in comparison with the numbers of those missing.
Between the Great Cross and the memorial itself, there is a small ante-room containing this huge plaque. Behind this memorial there is yet another wall with about five thousand names of those found after the memorial was finished. Most of the names were from the Royal Indian regiments.
Wing Church, beautiful and historic.
The headstone in all Saints, Wing, which has the details of William’s life and parents.

There is an uncomfortable codicil to this story. Squadron Leader Roger C Miller was on post with the RAF in Singapore after the war, and his wife was an aircraft controller. Elaine and I know him because he has ties to Sandridge. He told me that it was not well known, but after the Allies found out what the Japanese did to prisoners of war, both the RAF and the Americans destroyed ships carrying prisoners. The tactic deprived the Japanese of fresh intelligence, and the prisoners were spared the horrors of Japanese prisoner camps. He was sang-froid, but I found the situation deeply disturbing.

I hope we have given you a flavour of the Kranji War Memorial, and we send you and Betty all the very best.


Ten-gun Terror; The Bristol Beaufighter

Photo Elaine Tearle

Bristol Beaufighter in the RAF Museum, Hendon. (Photo, Elaine Tearle)

I became aware of the Bristol Beaufighter because of the story I wrote on Sgt Francis Joseph Tearle, whose name I found on the Battle of Britain memorial outside Westminster tube station in London. As a post-WW2 child I grew up on stories of Spitfires, Hurricanes, Mosquitoes and Wellington bombers, but until this year (2016) I had never once heard the name Beaufighter. During my research for this article, and in my travels on the trail of Sgt FJ Tearle, who flew the plane in Malta, I have developed an affection for this beautiful, destructive and highly dangerous airborne weapon. My source for all things technical is Jerry Scutt’s Bristol Beaufighter and in the introduction he says “To many eyes the aircraft deserved the accolade ‘If it looks right, it is right’. The Beaufighter, designed solely for combat, had a deadly beauty.” (JS, Introduction)

Note: If you do not have a sailing or flying background, then it might be confusing when I use the words port or starboard to refer to one side or the other of an aeroplane or ship. Here is the way to fix it in your mind. When you are at the controls, facing the way the vessel is going – port is left, which is red.

Dennis Gosling DFC, in his book Night Fighter Navigator said “219 Squadron was equipped with the new sensational Beaufighter … twice the size of a Blenheim with massive 1,600hp Hercules radial engines and it weighed over ten tons…. Its top speed enabled it to catch any German aircraft of the time, without diving…. fast, aggressive, powerful, awesome, brutal…” (DG p48/49).

And further described his delight at being posted to a Beaufighter squadron “… I was going to be entrusted with the latest, fastest, most heavily armed twin-seat, twin engined fighter, not only in the RAF, but in the world!” (DG p50)

The list of countries which owned and flew Beaufighters is quite impressive:
Australia (which built them as DAP Beaufighters)
America (it was said they had “joined the Stars and Bars”)
Dominican Republic
They flew in the skies of Britain for 20 years, until 1960. (JS, blurb) The engines were always made by Bristol and shipped to the assembly factories.

To give an idea as to how radical this design was, compare it to a modern airliner such as the Beech 1900D, a regional passenger plane in Nepal, New Zealand and Australia, as well as a freight and personnel carrier for the US military, manufactured in America.  It was being built 40 years after the Beaufighter was withdrawn from service. The wingspan is identical at 17.63m (57ft 11in) but the fuselage is longer (17.63m). It is a twin turbo-prop with a maximum speed of 313mph and carries 19 passengers, to a ceiling of 25,000ft. The maximum take-off weight for a B1900D is 7,500kg, but for the Beaufighter it was 9,500kg, with a maximum speed of 330mph (450mph in a dive) to a ceiling of 30,000ft. The world of twin-engine propeller-driven aviation had gone backwards in 40 years.

Of all the aeroplanes ever built, the Beaufighter was produced in great numbers, 5500 of them, with engine production in excess of 57,000, and yet not one is flight-capable anywhere in the world today. I found that the main reason is because the Bristol Hercules engine that powered them are very difficult to find, and while other Bristol radial engines were used in, for instance, the post-war Bristol Freighter (a very common, and very large aeroplane, lumbering across the skies when I was young) they do not fit on the Beaufighter wing. This short blog on the progress towards that goal, points to a possible solution. Having opened the blog, scroll down a little to get to the Beaufighter article.

While we are discussing the engine, watch this video of a Bristol Hercules engine being test run. Maximum revs are only 2,900rpm, but look at the way it disperses the crowd behind the operator. It blows up a fierce storm. As you can see, the Hercules is a 14-cylinder radial engine, with an inner ring of seven cylinders matched with an equal number of outer cylinders, and once it warms up, it becomes surprisingly quiet. Here is a graphic of how it works. The early engines in development Beaufighters were the under-powered MkII (1100hp) and MkIII Hercules at 1400hp but good enough to give a flavour of how the plane would fly. (JS p9) The first production Beaufighters had to work with the MkIII engine, and the plane was delivered to 600 (City of London) Squadron at Tangmere on 12 August 1940. (JS p18) The Beaufighter was too late for the Battle of Britain but performed well during the London Blitz, operating as a night fighter, hunting bombers.

The Bristol Beaufighter was descended from the Bristol Blenheim, which was itself the fastest fighter-bomber in the world before 1940. Production started in 1937 (JS p8). A variant, heavier bomber, the Beaufort, was the Blenheim’s immediate descendant, but the Beaufort was never going to be a fighter given its relatively slow speed and high weight when fully laden. Production started in 1939 (JS p8). Bristol designers used the Beaufort frame, particularly the entire area behind the wings, and redesigned the wings and forward fuselage to allow a crew of two, the radar, and to accommodate the heavy 20mm Hispano cannon (all four of them) and their ammunition. (JS p9) The design also enabled the factories to re-use the jigs and tools already in use. This meant that Beaufighters could be produced quickly, and there was no need to develop new parts or processes in many areas of the continuing development of the aircraft.

The Beaufighter was second in speed only to the Mosquito, and then by just 30mph, and that in turn came about in the last two years of the war. But the Beaufighter was never retired from the fray. With its four cannons and six Browning .303″ machine guns, four on the starboard wing and two on the port wing, it was sometimes known as the “Ten-gun Terror”, and at other times “Whispering Death.”  When the Australians started making the plane, they used .5″ Browning machine guns – to devastating effect. They scorned rifle-calibre weapons in aircraft.

The last flying Bristol Blenheim at home in Duxford.

The last flying Bristol Blenheim at home in Duxford.

We went to Duxford to see if we could find a Blenheim, and there was one sitting near the fence waiting for a chance to stretch its wings. In flight it was very quiet, especially in comparison with its fighter escorts.

Blenheim and fighter escort over Duxford 2016.

Blenheim and fighter escort over Duxford 2016.

The type suffered badly during the Battle of France because even the Mk V (the latest version) had a Bristol Mercury engine with only 950hp. It was much too slow to be seen by German fighters in daytime and they were punished brutally. The hugely depleted Blenheim squadrons were withdrawn to Britain, to be used as night fighters and bombers. We chanced our luck to see if Duxford also had a Beaufighter, and a chap in grey overalls carrying some rather battered lengths of crumpled aluminium said there were bits of one in Hanger 2. And there was; it was labelled “a long term project” to turn an Australian Air Force Bristol Beaufighter back into a flying machine. A young Kiwi called Lawrence escorted us around the project.

Bristol Beaufighter - the engine was a radial motor

Bristol Beaufighter at Duxford – the engine was a 14-cylinder radial motor.

Bomb bay and undercarriage

Cannon bay and undercarriage.

Those incredible 20mm cannon

Nacelles for the 20mm Hispano MkIII cannon. Two were tucked into the bay on each side.

A quick look inside the cockpit

A quick look inside the cockpit – there is a lot more instrumentation and control equipment to be fitted yet.

Elaine and I visited the Beaufighter at the National Museum of Flight in East Fortune, Scotland. The plane was in very basic condition but did give us lots of clues into the construction of the parts.

Fuselage section.

Above: Fuselage section. Below: end of wing cross-section.

End of wing cross-section.

Probably the engine mounting, and forms part of the wing.

Above: Probably the engine mounting. Below: Main part of the wing, the dihedral tail wing can be seen attached to the fuselage.

Main part of the wing, the dihedral tail wing can be seen near the back wall of the shed.

And then, on the last weekend before the exhibit was closed until 2018, we inspected the Beaufighter in the Historic Hangers of the RAF Museum, Hendon. The first photo of the exhibit heads this article.

DSC_7201 Bristol Hercules MVIII engine Beaufighter RAF Museum Hendon

Bristol Hercules XVIII engine for the Beaufighter.

This is the black object under the port wing in the first photo of this article. You can see clearly in the photo above the two rings of cylinders. Below is the information board that accompanies the exhibit:

Information board RAF Museum Hendon

It might be worth noting that to the Coastal Command Beaufighter pilots, who were renowned for their bravery, low altitude (as in “low altitude work”, above) was called “dot feet.” Meaning sea level. The plane would be carrying a torpedo, and to stay under the radar and release a torpedo that would enter the water about 200m from the ship, the plane would fly literally at wave-top level. On dropping the torpedo, the Beau would open up with its cannons and machine guns on the ship – especially the bridge – targeting anti-aircraft guns and key decision-makers. Other Beaufighters in the attack would be firing rockets and possibly dropping two 113kg bombs in addition. They did not carry the torpedo with bombs, nor with rockets. The flight characteristics of each different type of weapon was quite different. The amount of venom the Beaufighter had was truly incredible.

There were two early marks of the Beaufighter – the Mk1F, denoting a fighter, and the Mk1C, which went to Coastal Command. The particular machine that is on display at Hendon is a TF.X, meaning it could carry a torpedo, or rockets and bombs – in addition to the cannons and six machine guns.

View from the tail

View from the tail

In the view above you can clearly see the 12 degrees of dihedral for the tail fins. This was an attempt – which had some effect – to prevent a savage yaw to starboard as the plane became airborne. Pilots were advised to keep the wheels on the ground until it reached in excess of 150mph, and to ensure that both engines had the same revs at take-off. (SC p15 & 17) You can also see the navigator/observer’s perspex bubble. You should note that it looks backwards.

Gosling says: “Although I had a marvelous view astern and to the sides, I had no view forwards, and obviously a navigator wants to see where he was going – not where he has just been! With practice I adapted to this back-to-front navigating, but it was never easy.” (GS p50)

The proboscis protruding above the engine is the air filter to the carburetors. The front wheels were fully retracted in flight, with fairings over them to reduce drag, however, the rear wheel when retracted still protruded a little and did not have a fairing.

Beaufighter TF.X at Hendon.

Beaufighter TF.X at Hendon.

This view of the port side of the Beaufighter at Hendon tells us quite a lot. Firstly, you can see its size in comparison with the visitors nearby. One blade of the propeller is almost as long as an adult is tall. Secondly, you can see that the nose is tucked well inside the swing of the propellers, but it was still big enough to accommodate the bulky WW2 radar equipment. The little white drop-down object under the wing, close to the nearside edge of the photograph, is the pitot tube to tell the pilot how fast he is flying relative to the wind speed. You can also see the port wing landing light, and along from that on the leading edge of the wing are the holes of the blast tubes that contain the two machine guns. There are another four on the starboard wing. Along a little from the machine guns is the “bullet housing” for the oil cooler. Now, a little subtly, there are four small black marks on the underside of the wing on the same white streak as that occupied by the machine guns. These are mounting points for the rails that would have held the rockets, had she not been prepared for a torpedo mission. They are not in sight, and neither are the rockets in this view, but each rocket was covered by a blast shield to protect the wing when fired, and on many pictures of Beaufighters in flight, you can see the rockets protruding from the underside of the wings. Four on each side.

In one configuration it could carry rockets and bombs, or torpedoes and might operate with a crew of three, but in its usual configuration as a heavy fighter, it would have a crew of just two. The observer/gunner, so-called to disguise the highly secret radar the aeroplane was using, was actually the navigator and in our case he was Sgt FJ Tearle. The navigator would guide the pilot to a place about 300 yards behind and 100 yards below his target and after confirming the type of aircraft as a bandit, the pilot would give it just a 2-second blast of cannon and machine guns. The enemy plane would fall out of the sky. The cannons, machine guns and rockets were just as effective against E-Boats, U-boats and ships off the coast of Malta, as they were in Egypt destroying Rommel’s tanks and in the South Pacific harassing Japanese truck convoys and ground-straffing aerodromes and troop encampments. After the conversion of many Beaufighter squadrons to Mosquitoes, late in the war, the remaining Beaufighters were used by RAF Coastal Command to weaken and destroy enemy convoys in the North Sea.

Make no mistake, this is a thoroughbred fighter.

View over the starboard wing.

View over the starboard wing.

There are a few things worth noting in the photo above:

  • you can just see the 3 degrees of dihedral in the wing, outside of the motor
  • you can see the fairing that closes over the front wheels when they are retracted
  • the rocket is held in place by one of its fins. The rails to which it and its three companions would have been tethered are not here, but they were heavily protected to avoid damage to the wing
  • the four blast tubes for the machine guns can be seen on the leading edge of the wing; there was not enough room on the port wing between the oil cooler housing and the landing light for four machine guns
  • the crocodile skin pattern of the exhaust pipe tail is to help prevent flare when the plane slows down in preparation for firing at a bandit. You can understand that at night, if your engines made a significant splash of colour, that would alert the pilot of the enemy plane and he would immediately take evasive action. In seconds he would be lost in the night.
  • there is a bullet housing on the leading edge of this wing, too – for oil cooling. There are some photos here of details and interior views of this magnificent plane.

The Beaufighter Mark II

We can spend a moment on the Mk II. There was some worry at Whitehall that Bristol might not be able to maintain the production of their Hercules engines, so Rolls Royce was asked to supply Merlin engines to the Beaufighter production line, and Bristol agreed to try to make the mark work. The plane looks nose-heavy because the engines are fitted to the wing from their rear, and project well forward of the nose. In flight, the engines, Merlin Mk XX at 1280hp, were not powerful enough for the size, weight and required airspeed (they could fly only 301mph) of the planes to which they were fitted. The project had some Mk II production planes delivered to 600 Squadron in April 1941, but they were replaced by Beaufighter Mk VI with Hercules engines in May 1942. This was about the time when Mk II production finished. The Navy liked them because they had Merlin engines so Naval engineers did not have to get used to a new technology, but in the end few of the Merlin Beaufighters saw active service, and it was Merlin engines that suffered production shortages. All the Merlin Beaus – Mk II, Mk III, Mk IV and Mk V – none of which looked like a Beaufighter, and were difficult to fly, with an even more alarming starboard yaw on take-off – ceased production. The last word goes to an RAF accident inspector: “Every effort should be made to re-equip Beaufighter squadrons with Mk V1s. Hercules engines are more reliable.” (JS pp24-35)

My brother Graeme and I went to the Shuttleworth Collection at the Old Warden aerodrome, and we found this:

Hispano cannon and Browning machine gun, Shuttleworth Collection

Hispano cannon and Browning machine gun, Shuttleworth Collection.

The round object, like an electric motor on top of the cannon, is the belt feed mechanism that loaded shells into the breach.

Hispano 20mm cannon muzzle.

Hispano 20mm cannon muzzle.

The photo above is just to keep you awake at night… It is a mighty weapon.

Comparative bullet and shell sizes

Comparative bullet and shell sizes

This picture shows the different types of shell that could be loaded into the Hispano cannon belt – all the same type, or a mixture – depending on the target the plane was hunting. Two cannon were fitted into each of the bays I pointed out in the Duxford Beau, above, and the area around the bays had to be greatly reinforced, with the barrels contained in heavy-duty blast tubes. The pilot alone controlled the firing of the plane’s armament, and during night patrols relied wholly on the navigator putting him in the right place and at the right speed to launch an attack. You can see how comparatively small the .303″ Browning machine gun is. It was developed for ground-based battlefield conditions against approaching soldiers; it seems a very small bullet to be using to attempt to bring down an aeroplane.

There is a moot point we could discuss at this moment; how does a ten-ton monster get such a turn of speed? My flight instructor, Malcolm Campbell of the Eagle Flying Academy, while we sat in a little Piper Cherokee and waited for take-off clearance from the tower, summed it up like this. “What do you think keeps this plane up in the air?” he asked me.

“The wings,” I said. “Air flows over them and because the wind over the top of the wing has to go further than the wind under the wing, that causes lift, and we can fly.”

“Not bad,” he said, nodding at my 5th-form science. “But consider the rocket, it has no wings. What makes it fly is the rocket engine. There are unbelievable amounts of energy and power released when the motor is turned on. Without power, the rocket is a large metal cylinder, going nowhere. So what keeps us up in the air?”

His foot tapped on the firewall that curled up from the floor to the windscreen in front of us. “This motor; it generates power, and up we go. If it had enough power, a brick could fly.”

“Foxtrot Papa, you are cleared for takeoff,” said the voice in my headphones.

“Push the throttle all the way forward and hold the plane on the ground until you have reached 80mph,” said Malcolm, “then gently, very gently, ease the control stick towards you and the plane will rise. Let the motor do all the work. Once the plane is rising, hold the nose at that attitude and wait while the airspeed increases until it is over 110mph, then you can let it rise as it wants to, until we get to 5000ft.”

He looked out the window as the aerodrome retreated below us and the Rukuhia countryside unfolded its rural splendour in a glorious summer panorama of green paddocks dotted with houses and milking sheds, and ribbons of black roads winding through undulating hills framing the sparkling blue waters of the mighty Waikato River. “Without the power of this motor, you’d still be on the ground.”

Those nicknames

“Ten-gun Terror”
I can live with this name because it was so obviously dreamed up by a focus group in the War Office and thereafter used extensively in propaganda. It has such a nice alliteration, it rolls off the tongue so sweetly, it makes the aeroplane sound really tough, and it is a simple description of the Beaufighter’s most important asset. WW2 movie-goers would have thrilled at the name when they watched newsreels of this plane swooping down with all guns blazing.

“Whispering Death”
I wondered about the origin of this name when I first heard it in one of the newsreels. “The Japanese call it the Whispering Death!” bellows the commentator, but it sounds like propaganda, and it seems unlikely that the Japanese would have thought up the phrase, and then handed it to the War Office to use against them.
Dennis Gosling mentions it:
“… the Beau was almost noiseless when making a ground attack and it later became known as the “Whispering Death” for by the time the sound reached you the plane had already gone.” (DS, p64)

However, Jerry Scutts has the definitive version:
“It was actually British pilots who dreamed up the enduring name for the Beaufighter, after a Mess party where someone with fake newspaper headlines in mind christened it Whispering Death.” He goes on to describe the attack of a single Beaufighter on a Japanese parade ground in Burma celebrating the emperor’s birthday on 29 April 1943. The Japanese had not heard the low approach of the Beaufighter, which, as it overflew the parade killed a number of troops, frightened the horses and split the flagpole, symbolically bringing down the Rising Sun. “The most dramatic and enduring nickname has been associated with the Beaufighter ever since.” (JS, p136)

There is a lot to be said about Malta and the Siege of Malta, and I intend to do so in another post. Suffice it to say that all these stories came to notice because of Sgt FJ Tearle. Here he is with 89 Squadron in the burning sands of Abu Sueir, and he looks at the noticeboard in the Sergeants Mess. Dennis Gosling has the list:
“89 Squadron crews posted to 1435 Flight Detachment Malta
Flight Lt Hayton and PO Josling
PO Daniel and Sgt Gosling
PO Oakes and Sgt Walsh
Sgt Miller and Sgt Tearle.
…. no matter that we were on our way to the most bombed place on Earth, this was the adventure we had craved.” They flew four Beaufighter aircraft to Malta and landed at Takali, “a grass airstrip without any night flying facilities.” (DG, pp74-75)
He calls them “Eight little Night Fighter Boys of Malta Night Fighter Unit No. 1435.” (DG p77).

The conditions on Malta were very serious. They were in the middle of a siege with the Germans and the Italians bombing Malta constantly, with little food because the convoys seldom made it to Malta, and what they had becoming scarcer with every passing day. These four Beaufighters were the night defenders. The Beau crews cycled from Valletta to Takali where their planes were, and they were sent up in pairs to patrol the night sky. If the control tower, using very early and primitive radar (called AI for “Aircraft Interception”) sees “trade” as it was called, they would “vector” (assist) the nearest Beau onto the object. Once the navigator (Tearle, in this instance) had seen the unknown aircraft, he would inch the Beaufighter below the intruder so they could see it against the night sky and he and the pilot would check for signs that it was friendly, or a “bandit”. Friendly planes should have a light of the correct colour for any particular day, and they would also check the outline to see if they could recognise it as a known aircraft type. If it was definitely one of the enemy, the Beaufighter was allowed to attack. “Dusty” Miller and Sgt Tearle notched up 1435 Flight’s first kill on 8 March 1942, by downing a Ju 88 and damaging an He 111, which was not destroyed because the gun jammed. (DG, p78)

There was an ongoing problem with the gun jamming (more accurately, the cannon) and reasons for it doing so are many. It was a serious matter, because neither the pilot nor the navigator could re-arm the gun in flight. The Hispano was not, in its own right, an unreliable gun, since it was widely used in many military situations, but Gosling would test-fire the cannon of 1435’s Beaus each time there was a new shipment, because he thought there were good batches and poor batches. As a result, it would appear, gun jammings were reduced in number.

Once the Siege of Malta was over, other squadrons could come and go more or less as they pleased, and in due course, Malta was used as one of the jumping-off places for the invasion of Italy. Here is a Beaufighter of 272 Sqn taxiing near Mdina.

Wrapping it all up:

No-one can say the Beaufighter is pretty; it is too short from nose to tail, it looks ungainly at rest, the cockpit sticks out of the body incongruously – and the motors are huge, like bulging eyeballs. But beauty is more than just pretty – there is an organic synthesis of form and function that Jerry Scutts referred to in my introduction. Everything about this plane speaks of intent. In action, they were hazardous at take-off, but the pilots who flew them say that everything after that was delicious. They also floated well after landing in water, and often both crew members would survive a ditching. Furthermore, it was well known in RAF Beaufighter squadrons that the best way to land a wounded Beau was with the undercarriage retracted. Broken propellers and some scuffing of the underside of the plane would be fixed, and the aeroplane could be ready to fly again in two days. (JS p105)

Jerry Scutts says: “Although the Beaufighter was capable of destroying enemy fighters if its pilot was able to bring its formidable armament to bear, but in a disadvantaged position to an Fw 90 or a Bf 109, it would be hard-put to outmanoeuvre a well-flown plane.” (JS p20) The enemy planes were not faster, but because they were lighter, they could turn inside the Beau’s turning circle, and start firing at it before the pilot could get a bead on the little fighter.

Which is why the Beaufighter was a night fighter, a tank-buster, a ground-strafer and a ship-destroyer. What the Beaufighters had was a built-in grace in the air, and a very fast turn of speed; they could reach 450mph in a dive, but the pilot had to have plenty of room between the plane and the ground to pull up so that all the weight of the plane could be re-directed. They were quiet in flight, they could stay in the air for over five hours and their armament made them an enemy from which any man would be best advised to stay well clear. When you look through some of the videos I have assembled for you below, you will see just how fast, and how gracefully the Beaufighter flew; and you will also see how deadly and destructive was its firepower.

It was a warhorse of quiet power and deadly beauty, and it has a history in combat of which all of us can be thoroughly proud.


Graeme asked the Airforce Museum of New Zealand if they knew anything of Beaufighters in New Zealand. Research Officer Tony Moody replied:
“No. 489 (NZ) Squadron was formed in the UK and only ever served there. We are not aware of any Beaufighters being on the RNZAF register in New Zealand at any time and the ones employed by No. 489 Squadron were definitely RAF and stayed over there. As you say, it is possible Aussie “Beaus” could have staged through New Zealand or Norfolk Island. We did get Mosquitos here in New Zealand post war though.”
This is why New Zealand is not listed in the section on Beaufighter owners.

There is a chance that a Beaufighter (or rather the forward section of one) has found its way to the Warbirds Museum on Ardmore aerodrome in Auckland. Graeme is investigating.


Gosling, Dennis; Night Fighter Navigator: Beaufighters and Mosquitos in World War II. Pen & Sword Aviation, 2010. ISBN: 978 184884 1888

Scutts, Jerry: Bristol Beaufighter. The Crowood Press, 2004, ISBN: 1 86126 666 9

Online Resources:

1435 Flight

http://www.raf.mod.uk/history/1435squadron.cfm    1435 Flight/Squadron history
https://maltagc70.wordpress.com/2012/03/01/1-march-1942-9-hours-of-night-bombing-20-killed-in-floriana/         Malta WW2 day by day diary. Starts 1 March 1942, can see progress of 1435 flight.
http://home.btconnect.com/myrcomm/beaufighters/beau/index.html Beaufighter Squadrons
http://www.worldwarphotos.info/gallery/uk/raf/beaufighter/bristol-beaufighter-mk-vif-f-freddie-of-no-272-squadron-malta/  Beaufighter taxiing in Malta
http://www.worldwarphotos.info/gallery/uk/raf/beaufighter/ Collection of wartime Beaufighters

Beaufighters at war – youtube videos

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vsUdbzQCm_Y        (Ten-gun terror – Beaus used against North Sea shipping, and Rommel’s retreating army.)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hL4_z3kWa3s          (Sinking minelayer in Fiume)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=psUvAUw37D8        (Whispering Death – the forgotten warhorse)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SbzoCKKCQvE        (Simulation flight to Sicily)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kQqwQH7Dnqg         (Diving on WWII Beaufighters in Norway – Documentary)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tTA7-83GFII        (Beaufighters straffing retreating desert forces)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KR2OTc6_3-g    (Beaufighters attacking shipping)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b4XPIjsW3Rc     (Beaufighters in action)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X42zerXRfwc     (Beaufighters of 254 Sqn John Care pilot)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nuTarFsQLQc     (Beaufighters of RAAF 455 Sqn)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SbzoCKKCQvE     (Beaufighter at Hendon
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=buUivVLUyQo    (South African Beaufighter pilot)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EygPHew2q58    (Aus and US Beaufighter pilots)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EVvj659sBAA     (Diving on a Beaufighter wreck off the coast of Malta)

Beaufighter engine restorations

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FTl7ZsM3Fvo    Last Beaufighter engine run 1983
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nIYrPGRNRHo   Beaufighter engine restored and run
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pEbDlNeMtLM    Bristol Hercules demo run
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J0q9l8xejrE         Bristol Hercules sleeve valve radial engine
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D6Zw1_NiSWg   First start Bristol Hercules
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E5b3uN2jJMQ    Rolls Royce Merlin and Bristol Hercules engines at Farnborough
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p-BzHEBJ3rw    Bristol Hercules engine running – Bomber Command Museum of Canada
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LJ-FSJ7El2Q    Bristol Hercules engine run Duxford flying legends 2015
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zVxHOmQfh4Y   Bristol Hercules engine in a Bristol Freighter Omaka Aerodrome Blenheim NZ
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hzXeFql-1VU    Bristol Hercules engine startup
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_vrvep_YOio    Bristol Hercules sleeve valve radial animation

Beaufighter restorations

http://www.warbirdsonline.com.au/2015/08/31/bristol-beaufighter-news/    Warbirds online Albion Park NSW restoring a Beaufighter.
http://www.warbirdsonline.com.au/2014/07/02/dap-beaufighter-engine-restoration/ Beaufighter engine restoration.
http://farm3.staticflickr.com/2489/5839768225_3f13f7d765.jpg     Sent down-under; this looks like a static trainer.
http://forum.keypublishing.com/attachment.php?attachmentid=221015&d=1379608166  The same Beaufighter as above; I think this is the one now at Warbirds Ardmore in Auckland.
https://shortfinals.wordpress.com/2011/01/27/big-and-burly-a-plane-with-a-problem-its-a-bristol-beaufighter/     Comments on the Beaufighter restoration at Duxford.
http://www.warbirdsnews.com/warbird-restorations/warbird-restorations-downunder-rob-greinerts-workshop.html   The HARS workshop in Australia. Scroll down a bit to see a most interesting comment on the future of the Beaufighter.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/No._489_Squadron_RNZAF    No 489 (NZ) squadron had Beaufighters from Nov 1943 to Aug 1945, when the unit converted to Mosquitos.
http://rnzaf.proboards.com/thread/19894/bristol-beaufighter-detail – a Beaufighter in the National Museum of Flight, East Fortune, Scotland in 2013. Since moved to Hendon.

 Beaufighter stories

https://maltagc70.wordpress.com/2012/03/08/8-march-1942-luqa-bombed-round-the-clock-325-high-explosives/   Sgt Miller and Sgt Tearle on mission in Beaufighter from Luqa
http://www.rafcommands.com/forum/showthread.php?4659-F-Lt-Reginald-Arthur-Miller-(123201)-26th-April-1945/page2    Death of Dusty Miller
http://www.bbm.org.uk/airmen/Tearle.htm      Photo and headstone of FJ Tearle
http://www.epibreren.com/ww2/raf/600_squadron.html  600 Squadron in BoB
http://www.ipmsstockholm.se/home/bristol-beaufighter/      Development of the Beaufighter

http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/weapons_beaufighter_history.html     History of the Beaufighter
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Category:No._489_(NZ)_Squadron_RAF#/media/File:Royal_Air_Force_Coastal_Command,_1939-1945.._MH6449.jpg       Royal Air Force Coastal Command, 1939-1945.. Beaufighter TF Mark X, NT946, of No. 489 Squadron RNZAF, setting out from Langham, Norfolk, on an anti-shipping strike, carrying an 18-inch torpedo fitted with a Monoplane Air Tail.       By Royal Air Force official photographer – http://media.iwm.org.uk/iwm/mediaLib//50/media-50921/large.jpgCatalogue number MH 6449Database number 205207954Transferred by Fæ, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=24397065
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Category:No._489_(NZ)_Squadron_RAF#/media/File:Royal_Air_Force_1939-1945-_Coastal_Command_C4469.jpg Beaufighters attack shipping. Royal Air Force 1939-1945- Coastal Command A Beaufighter of the Langham Strike Wing in action on 15 July 1944, when 34 Beaufighters from Nos 455 and 489 Squadrons, operating with No 144 Squadron from Strubby, surprised a convoy off the southern coast of Norway.     HQ Coastal Command, Royal Air Force official photographer – http://media.iwm.org.uk/iwm/mediaLib//60/media-60398/large.jpg This is photograph C 4469 from the collections of the Imperial War Museums.



Tearle, Douglas Hubert, 1923, St Albans, UK (RN)

Douglas Hubert Tearle 1923

By Alan Tearle

April 2016

This news cutting recently came to light celebrating the fact that Douglas Hubert Tearle was mentioned in Despatches (MiD) whilst serving as a telegraphist in the Mediterranean during WWII.

Douglas Hubert Tearle newspaper article 1945

Douglas Hubert Tearle newspaper article 1945

So who was Douglas, what did he do to warrant the MiD and what else did he experience during that time?

After further research and information from his family, this is his story.

Douglas was born in November 1923, in St Albans to Hubert Major Tearle 1893, of Toddington and Daisy Rose née Howard. Doug and Hubert were descendants of John Tearle 1741.

Douglas was called up in August 1942 at the age of 18½ and chose to join the Royal Navy. His service record is below.

Douglas Hubert Tearle service record

Looking at his record in more detail:

HMS Royal Arthur was a shore-based training establishment for signallers, sited at the Butlin’s holiday camp near Skegness.

The class of Royal Arthur

In this photograph, Doug is standing in the second to back row, third from right.

HMS Mercury was another shore-based training establishment for signallers at East Meon near Petersfield commissioned in 1941. Doug’s wife Phyl recollects that HMS Mercury was in Portsmouth. (see Phyl’s memoirs below). There was a signals school in Portsmouth which then transferred to East Meon so maybe there was a period of overlap.

HMS Assegai was a central drafting pool, transit camp and central training establishment at Wentworth near Durban, South Africa.

HMS Nile (Sphinx)  was a shore establishment based at Ras el Tin Point, Alexandria. The Sphinx in brackets refers to the accommodation camp adjacent to HMS Nile.

HMS Mauritius was a Fiji or Colony class light cruiser. Doug spent ten months on board during which time they supported the allied landings at Sicily (Operation Huskey), Salerno (Operation Avalanche) and Anzio (Operation Shingle) as well as taking part in convoy and escort duties.

He was serving on HMS Mauritius when he was promoted from Ordinary Telegraphist to Telegraphist. The reason for the promotion is not recorded but it may have been a natural progression through service and experience or filling a gap left by another Telegraphist being transferred.

HMS Mauritius

Above:    HMS Mauritius
Launched           19. 7.1939
Commissioned     1.1.1941
Scrapped                  1965

HMS Hannibal (HMT Egilsay). HMS Hannibal was a Naval Special Operations base for inshore craft of the African Coast Flotilla. The name in brackets is the standard notation for the vessel he was serving on whilst based there, in this case His Majesty’s Trawler Egilsay.  

HMT Egilsay

Above:     HMT Egilsay
Launched             7.2.1942
Commissioned     8.7.1942
Sold to Italian Navy   1946

HMT Egilsay was an Isles class trawler/minesweeper probably stationed in the Mediterranean as  part of a detachment of the Royal Naval Patrol Service (RNPS). Doug served on board for ten months.

This was followed by more time at HMS Nile before returning to the UK and HMS Mercury followed by a week at HMS Europa, the RNPS Headquarters and one of five naval bases in Lowestoft.

HMS Claverhouse was a shore base which covered several ports on the Firth of Forth. During this time he was assigned to HMT Arab in Rosyth. Earlier, in 1940 the commander of HMT Arab, Lieutenant Richard Been Stannard, won the only Victoria Cross awarded to a member of the RNPS, during the Narvik campaign.

Doug then spent one week in HMS Paragon, a minesweeper base in Hartlepool still with HMT Arab before returning to HMS Europa for a year while the authorities processed the paperwork for a Class A (early!) release.

Phyl Tearle’s memoirs

Doug could not be persuaded to write down his experiences so his wife, Phyl, whom he married in 1946, did it for him. Below is an extract from her 1996 memoirs covering Doug’s time in the navy.

In August 1942, when Doug was 18½, he was called up for service and he chose the Royal Navy. He did 6 months initial training as a Telegraphist at land base HMS Royal Arthur at Skegness. They lived 3 to a chalet which had one single bed and one double bed so that two men had to sleep in the double bed with a board down the middle. It was bitterly cold that winter and life was far from comfortable. (Lucy’s father also experienced life at Skegness a year before Doug and he too remembers the hardships only too well.) [Lucy is Doug and Phyl’s daughter-in-law. Her father, Ewart Oakeshott, also trained at HMS Royal Arthur in 1941 where he contracted TB and was invalided out before ever going to sea.]

From Skegness Doug went to the Signal School, HMS Mercury, at Portsmouth. He was there for a month waiting for a draft and said he spent most of that month just sweeping up and wasting time. In March 1943 he was drafted to land base HMS Assegai in Durban and was there for another month. After that he was on a Dutch troop ship, the Rhys, and they sailed to Port Tufiq at the south end of the Red Sea. From there they went by train to a transit camp HMS Sphinx at Alexandria. His next draft was to a cruiser HMS Mauritius. Their first job was to sail back through the Suez Canal to the Red Sea to test the twelve 6″ guns in preparation for the landing on Sicily. The Mauritius played her part in the invasion of Sicily, and also sailed up the Italian coast supporting the Army landings at Salerno, Naples and Anzio. During these manoeuvres they could see Mount Vesuvius erupting, and they could also see Mount Stromboli which was smoking continuously. These were good landmarks for them. The Mauritius supported the landings in southern France at Marseilles and Toulon. When given a few days “rest”, some of the crew, including Doug, climbed up Mount Etna and that too was still smoking. There was snow at the top of Mount Etna and the lads used an old door from an observatory as a sledge to get down.

Around March 1944 the Mauritius was ordered home as she had completed her overseas spell but Doug was left at Malta and was soon drafted to HMS Egilsay, a T-class minesweeper. The Egilsay was a fishing trawler converted for the purpose of minesweeping, convoy escorting and anti-submarine duties. Normally in its days of fishing the Egilsay carried a crew of about ten; as a minesweeper it had a crew of fifty (4 Officers, 5 Petty Officers and the rest Ratings), so conditions were very cramped to say the least. When they first joined the Egilsay every member of the crew had to go through the practice ordeal of hearing the order “abandon ship” and jump into the sea no matter what they were doing. Who’d be a sailor!

There was only one other Telegraphist besides Doug and the two of them were working 12 hour shifts.

It was soon after Doug joined the Egilsay that Barbara was born, and the family gave me the job of telegraphing the news to him. I obviously didn’t word it very well and it read as if Doug was the father. When the Captain of the ship received the telegraph he sent for Telegraphist Tearle and congratulated him on the arrival of his daughter. “But I haven’t been home for 2 years”, said a puzzled Doug! I have never lived that faux pas down. [Barbara is the daughter of Doug’s brother Leslie and Phyl’s sister Mollie.]

At one time the transmitting aerial had snapped during the bad weather and Doug had to climb the mast to replace it. The sea was exceedingly rough and the ship very small with the result that while he was up the mast he seemed to be always over the sea and never over the ship! Not a happy experience. At times the sea was so rough that when the sailors went down the gangway to the deck, they would put their feet on the top step and then find themselves on the bottom step without having to actually climb down.

The Egilsay’s time was spent escorting convoys to the south of France, and minesweeping all around Greece preparing the way for troops to land. When sweeping here they were joined by about 6 other minesweepers, all sweeping non-stop. Supplies were short as they had no base to go to, and they used to anchor at night in any harbour or bay they could find amongst the Greek Islands. One night, with all the interference and geographical difficulties, Doug couldn’t get through to Malta to give the Captain’s daily report although he could hear Malta transmitting. He could also hear London transmitting, so he took a chance and after using all sorts of necessary codes etc. managed to pass his report to London who in turn transmitted it to Malta.

On one occasion when minesweeping they came across what appeared to be the new type of mine which the Germans had just started using.      Absolute panic!     Somehow they managed to tow it in to harbour but the harbour authorities didn’t want them there in case the thing went off.    However, the “mine” turned out to be a new shaped ordinary buoy. Were their faces red!

During all the minesweeping time, which you can imagine was absolutely horrendous, recommendations for awards were sent through, and Doug was “mentioned in a despatch for distinguished service” and received the oak leaf. The Chief Petty Officer Engineer of the Egilsay was awarded the DSM. Apparently it doesn’t matter how long you spend at sea, you still get seasick, and I have visions of Doug sitting transmitting with his bucket beside him at the ready, which is exactly as it was.

At last in mid January 1945 he was drafted home travelling on a landing tank craft, and I gather the bucket was in use again going round the Bay of Biscay. He had been away from home for a very long time and when he walked in the house at Radlett his mother just burst into tears. After a spot of leave he joined another trawler, HMS Arab in Rosyth. The Arab had been badly damaged, and Doug and others were lowered over the side on a plank and given the precarious job of painting her. While in Scotland he took part in the Victory Parade in Princes Street in Edinburgh.

Painting a ship - the old way.

Painting a ship – how they used to do it.

Mentioned in Despatches

So far no record of Doug’s MiD citation has been found. The Minewarfare & Clearance Diving Officers Association does list many WWII awards for RN minesweeping but unfortunately it is not complete. A typical MiD citation for members of the RNPS reads,

‘……..awarded for steadfast courage and skill in dangerous and important minesweeping operations.’

It appears that MiDs were awarded for distinguished service rather than specific actions.

Extract from the London Gazette 11 Dec 1945 listing Doug’s MiD.

Extract from the London Gazette 11 Dec 1945 listing Doug’s MiD.

His service number was LT/JX359565. The ‘LT’ signified Lowestoft as his Port Division (Welfare Authority), the ‘J’, that he was classified as a seaman or communicator and the ‘X’, that he joined after the pay review of 1925.

Service War medal with oak leaf

Doug’s War Medal with oak leaf.

Notice of MiD











All RN personnel who were Mentioned in Despatches  received a commendation from the Admiralty and an Oak Leaf to wear as a bar on their War Medal 1939-1945. Doug’s commendation hangs proudly in his son’s dining room.

The Royal Naval Patrol Service

The RNPS was originally set up using trawlers and small ships to protect the home coastal waters but later were also deployed for minesweeping and escort duties in the North Atlantic, the Arctic, the Mediterranean and the Far East.

They were often referred to as ‘Churchill’s Pirates’ or ‘Harry Tate’s Navy’. The latter name came from a music hall star whose act included anything mechanical going wrong and falling apart. The RNPS was originally made up of small old vessels, mostly commandeered trawlers and their crews, both of which were not considered ‘shipshape’ by other branches of the service. The work was so hazardous that by the end of the war the name had become synonymous with courage.

There is currently no evidence that Doug was a member of the RNPS other than the fact that he served on HMT Egilsay and that other ships of that class are listed as being part of the service. Members who completed more than six months sea time, as Doug did, were rewarded with a silver badge. Unfortunately, if Doug did receive one, it has been lost. There may be a reason for this in that the original badge issued had a vertical pin on the back and was easily lost. The design was changed to one with four holes to be sewn on to the uniform sleeve and it may have been overlooked when his uniform was disposed of.

Silver badge

Silver badge, later version

However, on the museum page of the RNPS Association website it states that:

‘Lining the walls of the Europa Room are the 17 boards listing the 850 or thereabouts honours won by members of the RNPS during WW2, including a VC, along with a list of over 200 ‘Mentioned in Despatches’’.

A visit to Lowestoft may be called for soon.





Souvenir of Egypt for Mother


One last piece of memorabilia.

An embroidery by Doug to take home to his mum.







Later life

On leaving the navy Doug returned to the grocery trade becoming a manager for Kinghams in Hendon and then Finchley. 1957 saw the family move north where he managed shops in Stratford-upon-Avon (1957-1960), Solihull (1960-1978) and Kenilworth (1978-1980) for George J. Mason and later for International Stores. Whilst at Solihull, they had a delivery driver who always had everyone in stitches when he was in the shop. His name was Bob Davis, probably better known as Jasper Carrott.

His last job was as an office manager for a small company where Phyl was the office secretary. He retired in 1988 and passed away in 2001.

Douglas Hubert TearleDouglas Hubert Tearle in Uniform

Douglas Hubert Tearle 1923-2001

© Alan Tearle 2016


Tearle, Charles Francis Stewart, 1912, Edmonton, Essex, UK (RN)

Charles EW & son Charles FS

Charles E W & son Charles F S Tearle

Charles Francis Stewart Tearle 1912, of Edmonton, Essex was the son of Charles Ernest Walter Tearle 1863, of Southwark, London, who fought with the Norfolk Regiment in WW1 and was awarded the Silver War Badge because of the severity of a sickness he caught on active duty. If you look up the reference above you will be able to see the ancestry details of Charles 1912, who is on the branch of Joseph 1737.

In the photograph the two men, Charles E W on the left and Charles 1912, are having a lark with the photographer (Mrs Tearle?) As you can see Charles Jnr is in full navy uniform. Here is the record of Charles 1912 from CWGC:

Initials: C F S    Nationality: United Kingdom
Rank: Able Seaman    Regiment/Service: Royal Navy
Unit Text: H.M.S. Culver
Date of Death: 31/01/1942    Service No: P/JX 235706
Casualty Type: Commonwealth War Dead
Grave/Memorial Reference: Panel 65, Column 1.

Charles Francis Stewart Tearle

Charles Francis Stewart Tearle

The Royal Navy archives note that the Culver was American-made:
Type: Sloop
Class: Banff
Pennant: Y 87
Built by: Bethlehem Shipbuilding Corp. (Quincy, Massachusetts, U.S.A.)
Laid down: 20 Jun, 1928    Launched: 27 Nov, 1928
Commissioned: 30 Apr, 1941
Lost: 31 Jan, 1942

A short history of the ship noted the following:
Former name: USCG Mendota (It was originally built for the US Coast Guard, and you would wonder if a 1928 ship was going to cut it in a 1940s conflict.)
History: At 23.31 hours on 31 January 1942, U-125 fired a salvo of four torpedoes at the convoy SL-98 and observed two hits and a large explosion. Schuch thought that he had hit an ammunition freighter, but in fact it was HMS Culver (Lt.Cdr. R.T. Gordon-Duff, RN) that had blown up in position 48.43N, 20.14W with the loss of the commanding officer, seven officers and 118 ratings.
Hit by U-boat. Sunk on 31 Jan, 1942 by U-105 (Schuch).

Charles FS (behind) HMS Culver

Charles F S Tearle (behind) on board the HMS Culver.

In the Royal Navy, ship’s companies seldom wore life-jackets, although they were carried aboard all vessels. Since the ship was observed to have blown up in a huge explosion, it was likely that few would have survived the first seconds of the incident, and those who did would probably not have access to a life-jacket in the short time it took for the Culver to sink.

You can see above that Charles’ permanent memorial (and the only one I know of) is his name on the Southsea Naval Memorial in Portsmouth. The Portsmouth memorial looks identical to the Plymouth memorial. Here is the obelisk:

Southsea Naval Memorial

Here is Charles’ name on the Portsmouth Naval Memorial on Southsea Common on Panel 65, Column 1, just where CWGC said it was.

Charles F S Tearle Portsmouth Naval Memorial

A Hertfordshire archive gave me a little more information on the ship:

HMS Culver was a Sloop of the Banff type, built by Bethlehem Shipbuilding Corp. (Quincy, Massachusetts, U.S.A.). She was launched on 27 November 1928. At 23.31 hours on 31 January 1942, U-105 fired a salvo of four torpedoes at the Sierra Leone convoy SL-93, west of the Bay of Biscay, and observed two hits and a large explosion. Although the U-boat thought that they had hit an ammunition freighter, they had in fact hit HMS Culver (Y 87) (Lt.Cdr. R.T. Gordon-Duff, R.N.) that blew up with the loss of the commanding officer, seven officers and 118 ratings. There were only 13 survivors.

A history of the US Coast Guard gave me some information on the Mendota:

Mendota, 1929 (later – HMS Culver, Y-87)
The cutter Mendota was named for the largest of the “Four Lakes” near Madison, Wisconsin.

Builder: Bethlehem Shipbuilding Corporation, Quincy, MA
Launched: 27 November 1928
Commissioned: 23 March 1929
Displacement: 2,075 tons
Dimensions: 250′ oa (236′ bp) x 42′ x 12′ 11″ draft (mean)
Machinery 1 turbine-driven electric motor (General Electric), 2 boilers, 3,350 shp, 14.8 knots (cruising), 17.5 knots max
Propellers: single, 4 blades
Complement: 97 (1940)
Armament: 1 x  5″/51; 1 x 3″/50; 2 x 6-pdrs (1929)
Cost: $900,000 each (hull & machinery)


The 250-foot class cutters were designed by the Coast Guard and were, in many respects, modernized 240-footers.  Captain Q.B. Newman, USCG, designed its innovative turbine-electric-drive power plant, which developed an amazing 3,350 shp.  These were the first to have alternating current, and a synchronous motor for propulsion.  The whole ship ran off the main turbine.  The auxiliary generators were tied into the main generator electrically, after sufficient speed was attained.  At that point, no steam was required to drive the turbines on the auxiliary generators.  The propulsion plant achieved remarkable efficiency.  The counter stern and plumb bow of the older class had given way to the flared stem and cruiser stern.  These features were an attempt to improve sea qualities over the 240-foot class, particularly to eliminate the heavy shocks common in the North Atlantic Ice Patrol.

Initially this class was made up of ten cutters, all of which were transferred to Great Britain under Lend-Lease in 1941.  They were to be replaced in the USCG inventory by the 255-foot Owasco-class vessels, laid down in 1943. Three vessels were lost while in British service, one was not returned, and the remainder turned back to the Coast Guard in 1946.

A 250-feet long ship is quite a sight, and in 1928, the Mendota would have been a modern and sizeable fighting vessel. As we can see above, she was used for patrolling convoys that carried goods to and from India, Africa and the US during WW2. It was simply desperate bad luck that the Culver was struck by a torpedo while on convoy duty. Of the ten cutters hired to the Royal Navy only three were lost, and sadly for us, the HMS Culver was one of them, and we lost Charles Francis Stewart Tearle along with her.

All the photographs in this story are thanks to the generosity of Paul Ailey, and my sincere thanks to him are recorded here.


Tearle, Alfred John Carter, 1901, Cuerdley, Lancashire, UK (CMP)

Alfred John Carter Tearle 1901, Cuerdley, Lancs.

Here is Alfred’s military record from the CWGC
Initials: A J
Nationality: United Kingdom
Rank: Lance Corporal
Regiment/Service: Corps of Military Police
Age: 40
Date of Death: 16/09/1941
Service No: 2689215
Additional information: Son of George and Minnie Tearle; husband of Kathleen Violet Tearle, of Harwell, Berkshire.
Casualty Type: Commonwealth War Dead
Grave/Memorial Reference: 1. A. 6.

Here is a note from CWGC: “Malbork (formerly Marienburg) is a town on the River Nogat located in the north of Poland to the south-east of the city of Gdansk (Danzig), on the main road 50, and the cemetery is located to the west of the town.” And sadly –  “The cemetery also contains the MALBORK MEMORIAL, commemorating 39 First World War casualties buried in Heilsberg Prisoners of War Cemetery.”

It took me a  long time to find Alfred’s story because his parents – George and Minnie – didn’t mean anything to me. Quite by chance I saw his marriage on Ancestry I and sent off for the certificate.

Marriage to Kathleen V Wood
Name: Alfred J C Tearle
Year of Registration: 1925
Quarter of Registration: Jan-Feb-Mar
Spouse’s Surname: Wood
District: Hertford
County: Hertfordshire
Volume: 3a, Page: 1021

His father was Alan George Tearle and that meant a lot, plus of course Kathleen Violet Tearle was mentioned on Alfred’s military record. Now I knew exactly who he was. Alan George was a son of Jabez 1836 Dagnall and Elizabeth nee Brown. John L Tearle tells the story of Jabez in his book Tearle, A Bedfordshire Surname, so Alan George, and Alfred, are related to him.  All are descended from Fanny 1780, so they are on the branch Thomas 1737. Alfred is also the uncle to a family of Canadian Tearles.

Here is his birth certificate:
Name: Alfred John C Tearle Year of Registration: 1901  Quarter of Registration: Jan-Feb-Mar  DISTRICT: Prescot  County: Lancashire  Volume: 8b  Page: 691

Just to give you a flavour of the events, here is the family through the Victorian censuses.
1871 = Jabez 1836 Dagnall Elizabeth 38 William Brewer 8 Allan George 6 John Henry 3 in Hindley Lancs
Jabez has married a Wigan girl and she is working as a DressMaker.

1891 = Alan George Tearle 1864 Wigan Amelia 27 William Brewer 18m in Stockton on Tees
We know from Alfred’s military record that Alan George is usually called George, and his wife is referred to as Minnie.

1901 = Allan George 1865 Wigan Amelia 37 William Brewer 10 John Lawrence 9 Elsie May 5 Allan Brown 2 Alfred John Caster 3m in Cuerdley Lancs
We now meet Alfred John and find out that his full name is Alfred John Carter Tearle. I know nothing of his military record, but we have uncovered a terrible story – Alfred died as a prisoner of war in a POW camp near Gdansk, in Poland.

When we visited Malbork, this is what we found:

Malbork Commonwealth War Cemetery general layout

Malbork Commonwealth War Cemetery general layout

Malbork Commonwealth War Cemetery showing page from Cemetery Register

Malbork Commonwealth War Cemetery showing page from Cemetery Register.

Malbork Commonwealth War Cemetery headstone of A J Tearle

Malbork Commonwealth War Cemetery headstone of A J Tearle.

Malbork Commonwealth War Cemetery inscription on headstone of A J Tearle

Malbork Commonwealth War Cemetery inscription on headstone of A J Tearle.

A little further out of town was the sobering memorial to the inmates who were victims of the POW camp:

The memorial to the - unnamed - WW2 victims of Stalag XXB POW camp Malbork

The memorial to the – unnamed – WW2 victims of Stalag XXB POW camp Malbork.

And a plate from the wall of the camp itself:

Plate for Stalag XXB POW camp Malbork

Plate for Stalag XXB POW camp, Malbork.


Tearle, Raymond John, 1916, Luton, UK (RAFVR)

On the War Memorial outside the Town Hall in Luton are the memorials to two Luton men who were killed in early 20th Century wars.Luton Town Hall and War Memorial

John Tearle 1849 and William Underwood Tearle were two well-known 19th Century Luton Wesleyan preachers: John was also a very successful businessman. William Underwood’s son, Ronald William Tearle 1897, is in the WW1 section, and John’s grandson, Raymond John Tearle 1916, is in the WW2 section.

WW2 names War Memorial Luton RJ Tearle

WW2 names on War Memorial, Luton: R. J. Tearle.

Here is Raymond’s service record from the CWGC:
Initials: R J
Nationality: United Kingdom Rank: Pilot Officer (Pilot)
Regiment/Service: Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve
Unit Text: 206 Sqdn.
Age: 25 Date of Death: 17/05/1941
Service No: 84945
Additional information: Son of Ralph Grenville Tearle and Clarissa Jeanie Tearle, of Luton. Casualty Type: Commonwealth War Dead
Grave/Memorial Reference: Sec. 4. Row L. Grave 1. Cemetery: LUTON CHURCH BURIAL GROUND

This is called St Marys Cemetery by the locals.
Here is Raymond John’s headstone on a grave he shares with his parents, Ralph Grenville Tearle 1884 and Clarissa Jeanie nee Pearson.

Raymond John Tearle headstone in St Mary Luton cemetery

Raymond John Tearle headstone in St Mary Luton cemetery

Raymond died on 17/05/1941 – on 10 May that year, the House of Commons was bombed – and Dorothy Chapman of Luton said that he died while trying to force-land in Sheerness Harbour. The plane had lost its radio and was 80 miles off course when it hit the breakwater (they called it the boom) late at night, killing at least two of the crew. She says he was flying out of RAF Bircham Newton, Norfolk. He was engaged, and would have been married the following month.

The British War graves site notes this about 206 Sqdn:
“In early 1940, the unit converted to Hudsons and moved to St Eval to patrol the south-west approaches. Two years later, Fortress IIs arrived and No 206 moved to the Azores to provide convoy protection over a much greater area than had previously been available.”

I wrote to RAF Bircham and Neil Grant replied:
We do have a record of Plt Off Tearle: he is shown in Peter Gunn’s book (Bircham Newton – A Norfolk Airfield in War and Peace) as having piloted Hudson aircraft T9324 VX-N on a ‘Pirate’ patrol which failed to return and came down in the Thames Estuary on 16 May 1941. The other members of the crew are listed as Plt Off L Cooper and Sgt A G Knight. All were reported as killed.

Raymond John Tearle is the grandson of John Tearle 1849 and Louisa Cooper nee Partridge and the g-gson of George 1823 and Sophia nee Underwood. The Underwoods are a well-known business family in Luton. The parents of George 1823 were George 1785 and Elizabeth nee Willison, and the parents of George 1785 were Joseph 1737 and Phoebe nee Capp.


Tearle, Francis Joseph Myerscough, 1923, Preston, UK (REME)

Francis Joseph Myerscough Tearle 1923, Preston, UK

Here is Joseph’s service record from the CWGC
Nationality: United Kingdom
Rank: Craftsman
Regiment/Service: Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers
Age: 21   Date of Death: 28/06/1944
Service No: 5124306
Additional information: Son of James and Fanny Tearle, of Preston, Lancashire.
Casualty Type: Commonwealth War DeadGrave/Memorial Reference: VIII. J. 4. Cemetery: LA DELIVRANDE WAR CEMETERY, DOUVRES

CWGC says, “The Allied offensive in north-western Europe began with the Normandy landings of 6 June 1944. The burials in La Delivrande War Cemetery mainly date from 6 June and the landings on Sword beach, particularly Oboe and Peter sectors.” This is during Operation Overlord – the landings of D-Day and the beginning of the end of WW2. Since Joseph was killed on 28 June and the Douvre Cemetery is near Caen, then we can assume that he was in the area, helping the Allied landings. Michael Tearle of NZ wrote to me about the kinds of tasks an REME would do: “It’s highly unlikely that Francis would have worked on bridges or laying cables. The Royal Engineers were the bridge people and the Royal Corps of Signals did the telecommunications. The REME did vehicles, guns, firearms, and radio repairs in the field, and welding, fitting and turning etc at base.” He also pointed out that craftsman (Cfn) in the REME was equivalent to private in the infantry.

It seems to me that Joseph is the son of James 1883 Preston, the son of Charles and Jane nee Swarbrick and grandson of Joseph 1803 Tebworth, the founder of the Preston Tearles. This means he is on the branch Joseph 1737. My first guess was that James has married a Frances (Fanny) Myerscough, but I can’t find the marriage – or any other evidence. I sent a birth registration to the GRO, but they sent it back with a “document not found” notice.

Barbara drew my attention to the Wills index:

“Francis Joseph Myerscough Tearle or Myerscough of 14 Redmayne Street, Preston, Lancs, died 28 June 1944 on war service. Probate 6 July to James Tearle, railway employee. Estate = £933 12s 4d

When I read the surname, Tearle or Myerscough, I checked under Myerscough in the Wills indexes as well and found an interesting entry – Charles Myerscough of 230 New Hall Lane, Preston, died 18 June 1940. Admon granted on 4 Sept. 1940 to James Tearle, railway employee. Estate = £900.

Unless I’ve missed it somewhere, I cannot find a birth registration for Francis Joseph, except that he could possibly be …. Francis Myerscough registered in March 1904 in Preston.”

If Charles Myerscough had asked James to look after young Francis, then perhaps he has been adopted.

I found the marriage in Preston 1916 of James and Fanny nee Ainsworth

Name: James Tearle
Year of Registration: 1916
Quarter of Registration: Apr-May-Jun
Spouse’s Surname: Ainsworth
District: Preston
County: Lancashire
Volume: 8e
Page: 1221

These are most likely Francis’ parents as cited on his CWGC entry above, James and Fanny Tearle of Preston. What seems to have happened here, as indicated by the two wills that Barbara found, is the following: James’ friend, Charles Myerscough has asked James to look after his son, Francis, and has left £900 for James to administer on Francis’ behalf. Francis may have been formally adopted by James, but I have no evidence for this. What is certain, is that Francis has added Tearle to his name, and perhaps even Joseph as a middle name, in honour of the founder of the Preston Tearles. When Francis signed up for WW2, he has left this money in his will to James.

In 1922, James was 39yrs, so it is quite likely that his maturity would have made Charles Myerscough comfortable with leaving the affairs of his son to such a man.


Tearle, Richard Elmore, 1914, Pottersbury, UK

Coventry War Memorial

Coventry War Memorial

Nationality: United Kingdom
Rank: Civilian Regiment/Service: Civilian War Dead
Age: 27    Date of Death: 11/04/1941
Additional information: of Hare and Hounds Hotel, Bramble Street.
Son of Mr. and Mrs. John G. Tearle, of 80 Western Road, Wolverton, Bletchley, Buckinghamshire.
Died at Hare and Hounds Hotel. Casualty Type: Civilian War Dead

Since Bletchley did not meant much to me (except for the Enigma machine we had visited) I concentrated on other things. Sue Albrecht of Auckland, NZ, gave me my first hint about the story of this chap. “I see that John Gates Tearle on the WW1 Cosgrove memorial married a Violet Elmore in 1913. I also see on your site that one of the WW2 casualties was a Richard Elmore Tearle. What’s the bet that Richard Elmore Tearle is John Gates Tearle’s son?”

I checked his death date for action that night and this is what Wikipedia said:

“On the night of April 8/April 9, 1941 Coventry was subject to another large air raid when 237 bombers attacked the city dropping 315 high explosive bombs and 710 incendiary canisters. In this and another raid two nights later on April 10/April 11 about 475 people were killed and over 700 seriously injured. Damage was caused to many buildings including some factories, the central police station, the Warwickshire Hospital, King Henry VIII’s School, and St. Mary’s Hall.”

Richard has sent me a little more information from a website dedicated to deaths during the Blitz and it tells us that Richard Elmore Tearle was employed as a bodybuilder at the Humber car works and that he is buried in a communal grave in the London Rd Cemetery, Coventry.

Coventry War Memorial from the gate.

Coventry War Memorial from the gate.

It’s a terrible irony, and very sad, that John Gates Tearle should survive WW1, and his son be killed in England, as a civilian, in WW2. It is now clear that he was buried in a communal grave with more than 1100 other victims of German bombing of the Coventry Blitz. By a communal grave, we mean that the Coventry Borough Council dug a large pit and the bodies of the citizens of Coventry were placed side by side and buried. There was a memorial service, but no headstones, and much haste because of the possibility of more bombing.

To mark the occasion, the Great Cross of the CWGC was erected to denote a CWGC site, and the Coventry War Memorial was built. On it, all the names of those in the communal grave were inscribed. There is also a small pocket of CWGC headstones, surrounded by a low, whitewashed wooden fence and more headstones scattered randomly around the cemetery.

Richard Elmore Tearle on the Coventry War Memorial.

Richard Elmore Tearle on the Coventry War Memorial.

John Gates Tearle 1890 Wolverhampton, married Violet Elmore in Pottersbury in 1913. His parents, Charles 1859 of Stanbridge and Lizzie nee Gates were in Wolverton (the home of the big railway workshops on the LNWR line from Euston, through Leighton Buzzard to Preston and beyond) was a Railway Platelayer. Charles was a servant for a farmer of 100 acres in Newbold around 1881, so he had obviously used his farming connections to move from Stanbridge. Perhaps it was just luck on his part that he was then well sited to take advantage of the industrialisation of Northampton, in order to improve his prospects. Charles was a son of William 1832 of Stanbridge and Catherine nee Fountain, amongst other children, whom you will see liberally scattered throughout this site. William’s parents were Thomas 1807 of Stanbridge and Mary nee Garner of Toddington, from whom my family is descended. Family Tree Maker tells me John was a 2nd cousin to my father. Thomas is a son of Richard 1773 Stanbridge and Elizabeth nee Bodsworth, and Richard is a son of John 1741. So Richard Elmore is on the branch John 1741.


Tearle, Reginald Frank, 1908, Watford, UK (RAFVR)

Reginald Frank Tearle 1908, Watford

Initials: R F
Nationality: United Kingdom
Rank: Sergeant (Obs.)
Regiment/Service: Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve
Age: 35
Date of Death: 27/04/1944
Service No: 1379571
Additional information: Son of Frank and Margaret Tearle of Watford; husband of Eleanor Tearle, of Watford.
Casualty Type: Commonwealth War Dead
Grave/Memorial Reference: Sec. A. Cons. Grave 158.

I’m afraid the CWGC is silent on the circumstances of Reginald’s death.

His father was Frank Tearle 1881 of Cambridge who married Margaret May Warr in Watford in 1905 and died in 1927. His grandparents were Abel 1850 of Dagnall and Alice Gray nee Collier, while his g-grandparents were Thomas 1830 Dagnall and Jane nee Draper.

Thus, he is on the branch of Thomas 1737.

Below is his headstone in Watford North Cemetery:

Reginald Frank Tearle CWGC headstone Watford North Cemetery

Reginald Frank Tearle CWGC headstone Watford North Cemetery

And here is a closeup of the text:

Sgt RF Tearle Watford North Cemetery

Sgt RF Tearle Watford North Cemetery


Tearle, Edward Kefford William, 1907, Lexden, UK (CMP)

Elaine and I got quite a surprise, even a shock, to see the name E TEARLE on a WW2 memorial outside St Marys Church in the pretty little village of Old Welwyn. Welwyn Garden City is close to St Albans, and you can walk to Old Welwyn from Hatfield. It took us a while to gather the information needed to tell his story, but here it is now.

The E Tearle honoured on WW2 section of the Old Welwyn memorial is Edward Kefford W Tearle, of the military police, b1907 in Essex.

WW2 names Old Welwyn

WW2 names Old Welwyn.

The memorial itself is next to St Marys, Old Welwyn.

War memorial closeup Old Welwyn

War memorial closeup, St Mary’s, Old Welwyn.

Here is the information supplied by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission:
Nationality: United Kingdom
Rank: Lance Corporal
Regiment/Service: Corps of Military Police
Date of Death:31/05/1940
Service No: 7683659
Casualty Type: Commonwealth War Dead
Grave/Memorial Reference: Plot 2. Row C. Grave 26.

This Edward Kefford W Tearle b1907 Lexden, Kent, was the son of Edward Kefford Tearle 1878 of Hatfield and Maud Sarah nee Micklefield, and as far as I know, he was their only son. He was the grandson of William 1857 of Soulbury and Sarah nee Kefford. He was the great-grandson of John 1831 Soulbury and Harriet nee Figg.

 Both these families are descended from Richard 1805 and Martha nee Walker, the parents of all the Soulbury Tearles. Leslie James T, John Henry T and Edward Kefford W Tearle are all descended from John Tearle 1830 and Harriet nee Figg, while Norman is descended from Richard 1843 (John’s brother) and Elizabeth nee Ellingham. All the Soulbury Tearle families are on the branch of John 1741.

WW2 names detail Old Welwyn

Detail of the WW2 names, Old Welwyn.

The CWGC said of Edward’s last hours: “The British Expeditionary Force was involved in the later stages of the defence of Belgium following the German invasion in May 1940, and suffered many casualties in covering the withdrawal to Dunkirk. De Panne village was the site of the final General Headquarters of the BEF in 1940, and there was a Casualty Clearing Station on the beach, which was an embarkation beach for the evacuation. From 27 May to 1 June 1940, the Germans strove to prevent the embarkation of the troops by incessant bombing, machine-gunning and shelling. The first German troops reached the village between 14.00 and 15.00 hrs on 31 May, and after heavy fighting, the commune was completely occupied by about 9.00 hrs on 1 June.”

Jonathon Tearle wrote to me on 20 Sep 2006

“This is my grandfather who was killed at Dunkirk in WW2. Although the evacuation was considered a great success, some poor souls got left behind to slow down the German advance. Edward was one of these brave men, and he wasn’t even a regular.”

Here are the results from our visit to the De Panne Communal Cemetery. We took the bus from Ypres to De Panne and a tram trip from De Panne to the cemetery below.

The Great Cross De Panne Communal Cemetery

The Great Cross; De Panne Communal Cemetery.

Edward Kefford William Tearle 7683659 De Panne Communal Cem

Edward Kefford William Tearle 7683659; De Panne Communal Cemetery.


John Tearle and Harriett nee Figg were shockingly poor – they lived in cottages in Simonsyde (off the Coopers Green Lane to Stanborough) and they spent time in the Hatfield Union Workhouse. To compound their tragedies caused by poverty, John and Harriet’s grandsons were killed in WW1: Leslie James Tearle was killed in France and John Henry Tearle was killed in Gallipoli. Then, in WW2 this man, their g-grandson, was tragically killed defending the beaches of Dunkirk as the British and French armies made their escape, on the very same day that his second cousin, Norman Tearle, was killed trying to ferry men from the beaches to the waiting warships. Norman went to war from Soulbury, while Edward’s family had left the village two generations earlier.

We went to see Norman’s grave in Oostende, by tram, later on the same day that we visited De Panne.

Edward Kefford W Tearle, above, died in May 1940, but his father, Edward Kefford Tearle (John Henry’s brother) died in September the same year. So poor Maud Sarah Tearle nee Micklefield lost both her son and her husband within six months.